Browsing Tag: Boeing 737

RwandAir's first Boeing 737-800 sits in a hangar at Boeing Field.

RwandAir's first Boeing 737-800 sits in a hangar at Boeing Field.

What does a Boeing 737 mean to you? For most, it is a common airliner found around the world. For many airlines, it is an reliable revenue-making machine. However, for others it is more than just the sum of its parts. For RwandAir and the country of Rwanda it represents progress and national pride that no one can put a price tag on.

Rwanda is a country with a troubled past (I will go into more about that in a future story), but they have come so far in a very short amount of time. It is a land locked country, looking to grow. To successfully do so, they need a viable air transportation infrastructure. RwandAir operations were started in 2003 to help Rwanda achieve that goal.

Boeing gave RwandAir keys to the plane. No, they are not needed to start the plane.

Boeing gave RwandAir keys to the plane. No, they are not needed to start the plane.

RwandAir recently took delivery of their first new airliner ever: a Boeing 737-800 with Sky Interior. I was invited to tag along for the delivery and the flight of the aircraft from Seattle (SEA) to Kigali, Rwanda (KGL). I was able to stay a few days in Rwanda and learne more about the culture, the people and the drive to grow as a nation. I will share these experiences in a multi-part series from the pre-delivery dinner to my experiences in Rwanda.

How does an airline get a plane made to only fly about 3,000 miles from Seattle to Rwanda? I did not know, but I surely wanted to find out. The adventure started with a special dinner held at the Museum of Flight under an SR-71. It did not take long for me to realize that this was not only about getting a new airplane, but it was about celebrating the progress that Rwanda as a country has made.

Before leaving, the 737-800 was pulled in front of a 787 Dreamliner.

Before leaving, the 737-800 was pulled in front of a 787 Dreamliner.

During his passionate speech during dinner, the CEO of RwandAir, John Mirenge, stated that he knows “what aviation can do to change lives and nations.” Mirenge hopes to continue to build his airline with additional aircraft (including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner) and vows to come back to Seattle, “We will be regular visitors in this town. It is a dream come true.” As previously reported, RwandAir hopes to reach 12 aircraft in the next five years and to 18 aircraft by 2020. The dinner eventually wound down and people prepared for the long flight starting the next day.

Originally, the delivery flight was supposed to take off at 11am on Thursday August 23rd. There were two delays that happened, but since we were only a group of about 30 and we had no formal plans, it did not matter too much. The first delay of 2pm was because the airline wanted to install their in-flight entertainment software, which takes three hours and they cannot start the process until the money is exchanged. However, there were some computer issues and a power blackout at the bank, which resulted in a delay in transferring the money. Luckily it finally came through, but the flight ended up being delayed an additional 3.5 hours to about 5:30pm.

The new Boeing Sky Interior is pretty slick, especially for a flight which will take about 20 hours.

The new Boeing Sky Interior is pretty slick, especially for a flight which will take about 20 hours.

This was okay since Boeing had RwandAir’s 737 in a hangar with food, drinks and music, giving us an opportunity to check out the aircraft. After we realized how long the delay was going to be, Boeing got a shuttle van and drove everyone to a local bar to have some drinks. It was quite awesome to have the CEO of RwandAir serve you a beer.

We were not there too long before we got the word it was time to go. We all piled back into the shuttle bus and headed back to the Delivery Center. Before being able to board the aircraft, everyone has to go through security, just like you would at the airport, but these security guards  seemed nicer than those found in airports. While we were enjoying our beer, Boeing had the 737 towed right in front of the delivery center. After a few more photos, it was time to get on board to start our adventure.

Our flight taxiing at Boeing Field. Taken by Andrew W. Sieber.

Our flight taxiing at Boeing Field. Taken by Andrew W. Sieber.

Seats were not assigned and I had the pick of almost any row in economy. I first went straight to the exit rows, thinking I was being smart, but darn it. The armrests in those rows did not move, so they were no good. I decided on Row 14 and I took over seats A through F for me and all my stuff. Even with having an entire row, I wasn’t too sure if I would remain comfortable during an almost 20 hour flight.

I could feel the excitement and enthusiasm on the aircraft as we were pushed back to taxi out. As we moved down the taxi way, I could see Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 747-8’s out the windows — that never gets old. We taxied to the end of the runway and took off quite quickly due to the light load. We were off on our big adventure — next stop Iceland, then a night in Istanbul before arriving in Kigali, Rwanda to a cheering (and dancing) crowd.

Part 1 Part 2 | Part 3 | Video | 737 Photos | Rwanda Photos | Destination Story | All

Is this the new Boeing 737 MAX livery? Nope, but a great Photoshop by Lyle Jansma.

Is this the new Boeing 737 MAX livery? Nope, but a great Photoshop by Lyle Jansma.

There are two stories with the unveiling of the new Boeing 737 MAX: the actual aircraft (which promises greater efficiency) and the choice of the name “MAX.” When I heard about Boeing’s name for their 737 re-engine, for some odd reason, I got really thirsty and wanted a Pepsi… weird. While this story should lead with the differences of the new 737, I feel I have to talk about the new name first, since it is the most shocking.

Boeing is a smart company that makes respected aircraft. They have a history of creating legendary names: Stratocruiser, Stratoliner, and of course Dreamliner. The name “MAX” is just not in the same category in my opinion — it seems lazy and very “been there, done that.”

There has been a lot of speculation on what Boeing might call their 737 Re-engine: the 737RE, 737-8, 737NNG. Many people have been excited to find out the new name. Reading different reactions on the internet, it appears I am not the only one who is disappointed.

According to Boeing, these next, next generation aircraft will be written as the “737 MAX 7”, “737 MAX 8” and “737 MAX 9” without dashes. I think I might be writing them as 737-7, 737-8, 737-9 with dashes and no “MAX.”

The 737 Next Generation was a great name. I even like Airbus’ new A320neo name to describe their more efficient aircraft to compete with the 737.

Yes, I understand the ideas behind Boeing choosing this name, but it doesn’t mean the name works. During the press conference announcing the re-engined 737, Nicole Piasecki explained why Boeing chose the MAX name. “We wanted the name to capture how exceptional the 737 is not only to in terms of its performance but we wanted it to be able to differentiate the 7, 8 and 9. We wanted to make sure the name was easily identifiable from 4-year olds up to 90-year olds and we wanted to make sure that it represented the best that it will truly be… We thought about how do you convey superiority, the best, the gold standard in single-aisle airplanes. And how do you come up with a name to describe already a great airplane. We wanted to make sure that it talked about what it was going bring to the industry in terms of maximum benefit, maximum competitive advantage for our customers, maximum value and absolute maximum in what an airplane could deliver to our customers. So we came up with something that fit that and we will be calling this airplane the 737 MAX.”

With all the creative and smart people at Boeing this is the best (er max) that they could do?

I like the new real livery of the 737 MAX, but not so sure about the name. Image from Boeing.

I like the new real livery of the 737 MAX, but not so sure about the name. Image from Boeing.

Will an airline not choose this aircraft because of the name? Of course not. They are going to care more about the performance and the bottom line.  Going with a re-engine 737 versus a whole new product makes sense. Airlines have already showed a strong demand for an updated single-aisle aircraft sooner rather than later. Going with a re-engined 737 will allow Boeing to  improve the 777 and develop additional models for the 787.

There are already496 orders for the new MAX aircraft from five airlines. Those that already have 737NG’s on order will most likely have the opportunity to change over to MAX aircraft.

Boeing states the 737 MAX will have a 16% less fuel consumption than their “competitor’s current offering” (we will assume that is the Airbus A320) and it will have 4% less than the A320neo. The new plane will use CFM International LEAP-1B engines and is expected to have its first delivery sometime in 2017.

So what are your thoughts? Do you like the 737 MAX name?

* Video of the new 737 MAX
* Great fake press release of the new 737 MAX

Boeing 737 Pepsi MAX livery done by Lyle Jansma

Computer generated image of an American Airlines Boeing 737, 787 Dreamliner and 777. Image via Boeing.

Computer generated image of an American Airlines Boeing 737, 787 Dreamliner and 777. It is fun to see the 787 in metallic finish, but the composite body would not make that possible. Image via Boeing.

I spent a nice chunk yesterday evening trying to get through all the recent information on American Airline’s record breaking order of aircraft. My first big question is why would an airline that lost $286million during 2nd quarter 2011, look to spend so much money on new aircraft? Airlines that lose money is not a new concept, but at a time when most airlines are raking in profits, American is still stuck in the red. The airline obviously needs to do something drastic and they are hoping that updating their fleet will achieve their goal. It seems like this is the correct direction, but there is much more than new planes needed to survive.

In case you missed it, American Airlines announced the purchase of 460 new aircraft, which is the largest single order in history. This will include 260 Airbus and 200 Boeing aircraft. I assume that the folks at American have run the numbers and found that with the expected cost of fuel and maintenance of older aircraft, it makes more sense, long term, to operate newer aircraft. It is likely that American had a huge advantage working Boeing and Airbus against each other to achieve the best pricing and they have beat Delta Air Lines and United Airlines to the punch of updating their fleet. In fact, American expects to have the newest fleet of all major US carriers in just five years, which is an impressive feat knowing that their average age of aircraft today is about 15 years.

According to Boeing’s press release, American was offered a 737 re-engine option that has not yet been approved by the board of directors. “In addition, American Airlines has committed to order a variant of the 737 featuring new more fuel-efficient engines, pending final airplane configuration and launch approval of the program by the Boeing board of directors.”

If approved, American wouldn’t be the only one interested in a re-engined Boeing 737. Flight Global quoted, Bill Ayer, CEO of Alaska parent Alaska Air Group, during an earnings call yesterday as saying, “We are very much in favor of lower fuel burn, and if Boeing can do this sooner rather than later, that’s a good a thing.” Alaska Airlines operates a fleet of only Boeing 737s.

Southwest Airlines is another all-Boeing airline based in the US and Brad Hawkins with corporate communications told, “We, of course, have frequent dialogue with our partners, including Boeing, but we don’t disclose the details of those conversations unless we have an update to share.” I think it would be obvious that Southwest would like a plane with better efficiency to start replacing their large fleet of older 737-300s and 737-500s.

Computer rendering of an Airbus A320 in American Airlines livery. Notice the flat gray paint. Image via Airbus.

Computer rendering of an Airbus A320 in American Airlines livery. Notice the flat gray paint. Image via Airbus.

It seems the bottom line here is survival. American knows that gas isn’t going to get any cheaper and continuing to operate fuel inefficient aircraft is not going to be sustainable. However, survival is going to take more than just new aircraft.

One of the first things I thought of with such a large order is, “livery change.” When I posted how I wasn’t a huge fan of the current American Airlines livery, I got a lot of backlash. It seems that either folks love the current livery or feel it is aged and time to go. If American is looking to modernize their fleet and move into the future, I think they need a livery to match.

Yes, it is unique design, but it just looks aged. Then add the fact that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (which American has 42 on order) won’t work with American’s bare fuselage livery due to the composite material and you have a great opportunity to change livery. I think painting the aircraft with a metallic silver base paint with updated, swooping, red, white, and blue lines could look slick. Then add a single color AA Eagle to the tail and you have yourself one nice looking livery — with ties to the past. Going with a flat gray paint scheme was done with the Airbus A300 and it looks better than the patchy A300 with bare metal, but still not a modern looking scheme. When I asked American about the possibility of a new livery they stated that, “Those decisions have not been made yet. That said, we do have to determine how to paint the 787. Obviously, we have to determine and make that decision well before the actual delivery in 2014 since painting is part of the manufacturing process.”

With the retro-fitting of new interiors, the addition of the Boeing Sky Interior on their new Boeing 737-800s and new aircraft on order, American Airlines appears to be making a genuine effort. They have also been working to improve their interaction with customers via  Facebook and Twitter, which helps them connect with the younger (and more hip older) passengers. They still need to tackle their problems with having a lot of debt, not making a profit and labor cost disadvantage.

After the order was announced, there has been a lot of criticism of American not buying all US built Boeing aircraft — accusing the airline of being un-American. That seems a bit mis-informed since we live in a global economy and trying to make the best deal to earn the most money possible sounds pretty darn American to me. United and Delta, who are the world’s two largest airlines, both operate both Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Not to mention that Air France (Airbus is headquartered in France) operates a fleet of over 80 Boeing (including cargo) airliners.

Be sure to also read:
* Jon Ostrower, on his blog Flight Blogger, posted an informative story on all the numbers relating to this deal and some are a bit surprising.
* Brett Snyder, on CrankyFlier, takes a detailed look how these new aircraft will more than replace the aging MD-80, Boeing 757 and Boeing 767-200 in American’s fleet. He theorizes that American might be looking to replace some smaller aircraft currently flying with American Eagle with larger Airbus A319 and Boeing 737-700 planes.

This video was shot in Los Angeles, CA at Ontario International Airport (ONT) in 2009. On its own, it is a pretty slick video showing a bit of airport operations and of course aircraft. The video was made by Greg Strasz who is a visual effects art director who has worked on movies like 2012 and soon to-be release Anonymous. Yea, not too shabby work huh? Although he loves video effects, he also loves aviation and shot this video to provide as a reference for his VFX department to the director of 2012. Obviously it worked. If I remember there was a pretty slick shot of the main character flying a plane under a falling building in the movie. Ah yea.

Thanks Greg for sharing.

To the untrained eye, one might not know what airline owns this Boeing 737. Lucky for us airline nerds, it is easy to tell that it is either a Boeing 737 with United or Continental livery.

This incident happed a few months back in in Greenville, Mississippi after the aircraft was painted to the new United Airlines livery. It had completed being painted and was about to be flown to Houston on a ferry flight. While taxiing out to the runway, the concrete collapsed under the left main gear, causing it to fold.

Luckily there were no passengers on board and both pilots were able to escape, uninjured, out the back of the aircraft.

It appears as though United didn’t want to be associated with a broken down aircraft on the taxi-way and they covered up all the identifiable markings. This is not uncommon for airlines to do when their aircraft become severely damaged.

I tried to get a status update on the aircraft from United, but at this time they have no comment. I have been trying to track down the registration number of this aircraft, but I have not had any luck. Super brownie points to anyone who can.